It's difficult to make the leap from non-theoretical grammar to theoretical ones, especially when one doesn't know the specific name of the theory being expounded upon.

I think it's just a case of not realizing what laypersons don't know. (There is a term for that I've forgotten.) For example, an IT expert may "slow down" and click only two times per second when teaching someone who has Never. Clicked. Before. True story.

But I've clicked a lot, tried to research and identify these grammars, and it's a hornets' nest.

So I was wondering if each answer could possibly be prefaced with the specific name of the theory behind it. That would be so helpful, to know the context first, to be able to readily recognize, over time, the different theories and positions being taken.

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    Probly not. First, they don't all have names. Second, some theory names ("generative" comes to mind) span a vast number of theories which mutually contradict one another. Third, if you restrict yourself to syntax textbooks (which is mostly what we get here), you get only whatever topics were covered in the text, which is not really a grammar. Textbooks are meant to teach syntactic theory (and occasionally practice), but they are not reliable grammars. McCawley 1998 is an exception, but it started out with that intention. Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 21:54
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    @JohnLawler - Sad emoji, but thanks for your response. Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 15:18
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    If an answer doesn't specify and you think it would help your understanding, you can always -ask- at that very answer.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 14:37
  • @Mitch - Maybe they're just theorizing, like on a whole nother level; WNL Theory. Done. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 7:41

1 Answer 1


I disagree. I'll just provide a few reasons:

  • Many explanations are fairly standard across all theories (I'll stick with that term for convenience), so there would be two possibilities: 1) Someone posting an answer would have to search for and then list every theory that the answer aligned with. That would obviously be unreasonable. 2) The person would list only one or two theories with which the answer aligned, but the choice would be arbitrary. For example, I recently helped someone to distinguish between a main clause and a subordinate clause. My interpretation surely aligns with the vast majority of theories, so which one(s) would I indicate?
  • Many explanations have nothing to do with theory but are instead based upon other differences in the language, such as BrE vs. AmE or Chicago style vs. APA style, so there would be no need to mention any grammar theories.
  • People who answer questions do so voluntarily, and we should not burden them with unnecessary requirements. Doing so could discourage answers, weakening the community over time.
  • No one needs to preface anything everyone was already taught in school for 12 years; everyone knows what that theory is—not one. This is mainly directed towards those who studied it for ~20 years before they answered any questions. And everyone knows how to read a manual; they just don't want to subscribe to it, or search endlessly. BTW, unnecessary requirements is why people don't ask questions, not why they don't answer them. They'd rather answer in comments in the form of a question; it's like Jeopardy: 'Do you mean a word like jeopardy or more like peril?' That's ELU Jeopardy. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 6:47
  • @HippoSawrUs You wrote, "So I was wondering if each answer could possibly be prefaced with the specific name of the theory behind it." Now I think you're saying that you're not actually suggesting that for each answer. If it's not required for each answer, then of course my response would be different. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 12:52
  • OIC, I should've typed the whole noun phrase again; sorry about that. Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 12:03

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